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#1
Old 11-23-2010, 04:51 PM
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How many meanings has the phrase "time flies like an arrow"

I know fruit flies like a banana, but I recall reading a book that claimed there were at least seven distinct possible meanings for the phrase "time flies like an arrow"

So far, I've got:
Simile: Time moves fast, like an arrow moves fast
Simile, literal, although untrue: Time describes a parabolic arc, then falls to the ground
Instruction: Please measure the speed of flies which resemble arrows
Instruction: Please measure the speed of flies in the same way you would measure the speed of an arrow
Declaration: Insects of a type known as 'time flies' are fond of arrows

That's only 5 (and I'm not really happy about the second one). What other possible interpretations are there?

Last edited by Mangetout; 11-23-2010 at 04:51 PM.
#2
Old 11-23-2010, 05:17 PM
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Measure the speed of flies the way an arrow would measure the speed of flies.
#3
Old 11-23-2010, 06:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Simile: Time moves fast, like an arrow moves fast
Simile, literal, although untrue: Time describes a parabolic arc, then falls to the ground
While these are different interpretations of what the intent of the statement is, the sentence has the same meaning in both: "The manner in which time moves through the air is similar to the manner in which an arrow moves through the air". It is left open to the reader which aspects of arrow flight are being supposed to be similar to time flight. If those two are different meanings of the sentence, then I could say the sentence means this too, for any X:

Time does X as it flies in the same manner that an arrow does X as it flies.

edit:

Ok, I see what you're saying: Time, as a solid object, literally flies in the second version, while it only metaphorically flies in the first. That's a stretch, and it comes down to what exactly you mean by "different meaning".

Last edited by glowacks; 11-23-2010 at 06:40 PM.
#4
Old 11-23-2010, 06:43 PM
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"Time travels in one direction, like a arrow which has been released," would be another, I think.

"In one direction," as opposed to the relatively omnidirectional result of, say, a bomb going off.
#5
Old 11-23-2010, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glowacks View Post
While these are different interpretations of what the intent of the statement is, the sentence has the same meaning in both: "The manner in which time moves through the air is similar to the manner in which an arrow moves through the air". It is left open to the reader which aspects of arrow flight are being supposed to be similar to time flight. If those two are different meanings of the sentence, then I could say the sentence means this too, for any X:

Time does X as it flies in the same manner that an arrow does X as it flies.

edit:

Ok, I see what you're saying: Time, as a solid object, literally flies in the second version, while it only metaphorically flies in the first. That's a stretch, and it comes down to what exactly you mean by "different meaning".
As noted, I was unhappy with item 2 from the start. I don't think it's really a different interpretation of the juxtaposition of words in the way we're looking for.
#6
Old 11-23-2010, 07:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
"Time travels in one direction, like a arrow which has been released," would be another, I think.

"In one direction," as opposed to the relatively omnidirectional result of, say, a bomb going off.
I don't disagree with this as a possible interpretation, but I think it suffers the same problem as my item 2 - it's not really a reading of this arrangement of words, it's an inference based on them.
#7
Old 11-23-2010, 08:19 PM
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I just have to say that the old saying, "Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana" always brings a smile to my face.
#8
Old 11-23-2010, 08:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ike Witt View Post
I just have to say that the old saying, "Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana" always brings a smile to my face.
See, in my mind I got "horse flies like a pile of shit."
#9
Old 11-23-2010, 08:32 PM
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The physical mechanisms by which time flies (Newton, Bernoulli, whatever) are similar to those by which an arrow flies.
#10
Old 11-23-2010, 09:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Argent Towers View Post
Measure the speed of flies the way an arrow would measure the speed of flies.
Analogously, "Teach the recruits like a drill sergeant." == Teach the recruits as if you were a drill sergeant (implication is that you are not actually a drill sergeant)
#11
Old 11-23-2010, 09:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
Simile, literal, although untrue: Time describes a parabolic arc, then falls to the ground
A copy of "Time" magazine, when thrown, flies like an arrow?
#12
Old 11-23-2010, 09:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martian Bigfoot View Post
A copy of "Time" magazine, when thrown, flies like an arrow?
Now we're getting into semantics. I've understood the whole point of "Time flies like an arrow" as a thought excercise about the ambiguities of grammar itself.
#13
Old 11-23-2010, 09:41 PM
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Colloquial (leaving off the "It's about", I've heard the usage):

Flies finally like an arrow, which should have happened at earlier date.
#14
Old 11-23-2010, 09:45 PM
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Even more tortured:

It turns out that flies which are too drunk to fly home should take an "Arrow" cab. One imagines the bartender:

"Time, flies. Like an Arrow?"
#15
Old 11-23-2010, 11:25 PM
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Instruction: Insects of the type known as "time flies," please take pleasure in an arrow.

Ascertain how long it takes to say "flies like an arrow." (Maybe not.)

Last edited by njtt; 11-23-2010 at 11:27 PM.
#16
Old 11-23-2010, 11:42 PM
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My friends and I used to play word games like this when we were really stoned in college. I distinctly remember seeing the phrase "Shmock Hock D'Pop!" spoken by an R. Crumb comic character and we debated what it was supposed to mean, eventually concluding that someone named Shmock hocked a can of soda. "Shmock hocked the pop."
#17
Old 11-24-2010, 12:35 AM
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"Flies like an arrow" is the name of an American Indian. Time him.
#18
Old 11-24-2010, 12:56 AM
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Another metaphorical interpretation: Time flies like an arrow in the sense that the passage of time will eventually have the same effect on you that being hit by a flying arrow would.
#19
Old 11-24-2010, 01:10 AM
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Pinch archer.
#20
Old 11-24-2010, 01:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nametag View Post
"Flies like an arrow" is the name of an American Indian. Time him.
No no, an issue of Time was devoted to Flies Like an Arrow and his roll in Little Bighorn. Time: Flies Like an Arrow Shot Up Custer.
#21
Old 11-24-2010, 01:37 AM
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Got one!

Please measure the amount of time it takes these flies to do some unmentioned tasks. Also, become fond of an arrow.
#22
Old 11-24-2010, 01:43 AM
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Or then there is the symbolic meaning, but applied to the arrow as a shape rather than as a physical item. Time flies in such a way that it goes straight forward for a while, spreads out suddenly, and then tapers to a point.
#23
Old 11-24-2010, 04:02 AM
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Use your stopwatch to ascertain how quickly people can zip up their pants in a swift, straight manner.
#24
Old 11-24-2010, 04:09 AM
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Confucius say: When attempting to cook long, straight strips of potato (that are sharply tapered at one end) in oil, it is necessary to time the operation precisery.

Last edited by njtt; 11-24-2010 at 04:10 AM.
#25
Old 11-24-2010, 05:44 AM
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Find some flies that are similar to an arrow, and time them.
#26
Old 11-24-2010, 06:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidm View Post
Find some flies that are similar to an arrow, and time them.
That is equivalent to the third one in the OP.
#27
Old 11-24-2010, 06:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by njtt View Post
That is equivalent to the third one in the OP.
Yea, I realized that after I posted it, but too late to edit it.
#28
Old 11-24-2010, 07:39 AM
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She bears each cross patiently?
#29
Old 11-24-2010, 10:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodo View Post
She bears each cross patiently?
Would you care to explain?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you fold up this news magazine (the world's largest) just so, you can project it through the air a considerable distance, and with considerable accuracy.

Last edited by njtt; 11-24-2010 at 10:35 AM.
#30
Old 11-24-2010, 10:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by njtt View Post
Would you care to explain?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you fold up this news magazine (the world's largest) just so, you can project it through the air a considerable distance, and with considerable accuracy.
Just another phrase with many possible meanings.
#31
Old 11-24-2010, 10:41 AM
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Darn, the last has been done and I missed the edit window.
#32
Old 11-24-2010, 10:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodo View Post
Just another phrase with many possible meanings.
Oh, I am with you now: like the striptease artist distracting drivers and making things difficult for pedestrians.
#33
Old 11-24-2010, 10:46 AM
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Has this one been done:

The objects known as "time flies" are similar to arrows in an unspecified way.

It should really have a comma: Time flies, like an arrow.
#34
Old 11-24-2010, 11:57 AM
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Wait, so are we allowed to add punctuation? Because if so, it could be a Valley girl making fun of that geeky pilot named Time...

"Time flies, like, an arrow."
#35
Old 11-24-2010, 12:18 PM
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Well you wouldn't necessarily need punctuation in my example, it would just be a sentence fragment. Upon checking the OP it did specify "phrase" rather than sentence.

You could use it in a sci fi novel to describe the action of "time flies":

The time flies like an arrow did plunge into the center of the combat.

Last edited by Ludovic; 11-24-2010 at 12:18 PM.
#36
Old 11-24-2010, 12:21 PM
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A Pierce Arrow was an automobile and as such didn't fly at all. So if time was passing slowly, you could sarcasticly say that time is flying like a car.
#37
Old 11-24-2010, 04:11 PM
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The amount of force exerted by the passage (or flight) of time is approximately that which would be represented by an attonewton using arrow notation.
#38
Old 11-24-2010, 04:18 PM
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The time that flies like is an arrow. (This would not be correct grammar except in newspaper headlines, but still, constructions such as this are used regularly. Or should I say "Constructions like this used regularly")
#39
Old 11-24-2010, 05:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
Now we're getting into semantics. I've understood the whole point of "Time flies like an arrow" as a thought excercise about the ambiguities of grammar itself.
Both sem and gram. The phrase was coined by someone or other in early work on AI precisely to play with a computer's "understanding."
#40
Old 11-25-2010, 09:37 AM
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Time I left
Time for bed
Time flies like an arrow

Last edited by phaemon; 11-25-2010 at 09:38 AM. Reason: better example
#41
Old 11-25-2010, 11:58 AM
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A really bad haiku.
#42
Old 11-26-2010, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DooWahDiddy View Post
Wait, so are we allowed to add punctuation? Because if so, it could be a Valley girl making fun of that geeky pilot named Time...

"Time flies, like, an arrow."
This reminds me of a silly discussion my class had in "theory of computation" after talking about context-sensitive language generation. The word "like" has a lot of different possible substitutions (as this thread also shows) and the professor challenged the class to come up with various schematics for substitution. After we managed quite a few, and writing them down in the fancy "like -> resemble" sort of notation, he goes on to the punch line of the discussion: after saying something like "So, like, there's, like, this one use that we, like, haven't said anything about yet." and mentioning the above referenced culture group, he wrote on the board "like -> ^ (or whatever the symbol denoting the empty word was)".

I'm sure no one else but the class will ever find it funny, but after going through most of a class where we had tons of these kind of rules completely seriously, it was quite amusing to get such a light-hearted word generation rule, especially in the mocking way it was delivered.
#43
Old 11-26-2010, 06:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by njtt View Post
Oh, I am with you now: like the striptease artist distracting drivers and making things difficult for pedestrians.
That would be 'bares'.
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